I don’t have a Hall of Fame ballot. I’m not a 10-year member of the Baseball Writers. Perhaps I will have one in the future, but that has never stopped me from debating each year’s class.
I was a little reluctant to do so this year because there’s been such controversy about it. Much of the debate is about a rule that I thought relatively innocuous.
Since the start of voting, there’s been a limit of 10 players, and relatively few writers voted for the maximum. I always thought that in most years writers who named 10 were just trying to reward personal favorites, or in some years, make sure that they achieve the five percent necessary to stay on the ballot.
This year is different.
There are 17 holdovers and 19 new candidates. Many of the 19 have played well, but not exceptionally in the majors leagues for 10 years or more and met a screening committee’s approval.
Jacque Jones, J.T. Snow, Richie Sexson, Paul Lo Duca and some others were all fine players, but they wouldn’t argue they deserved induction. Todd Jones, who was an excellent relief pitcher, has publicly declared he shouldn’t be in.
Armando Benitez, who hasn’t even been nominated for the Orioles’ Hall of Fame, is on the ballot, too.
There are five quality first-time candidates: Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.
I’ve argued previously that Mussina is a Hall of Famer, but it may take the electorate some years to recognize it. Just because someone isn’t voted in on the first try doesn’t diminish them.
In fact, I never gave Bert Blyleven a second thought until someone argued his case to me. I researched him, and agreed and championed his case to others. It took many years until Blyleven got in. Mussina may be like that.
Maddux is an obvious choice. Glavine’s 305 wins should make him obvious, too.
Frank Thomas’s gaudy stats (521 home runs, .419 on-base percentage and .974 OPS) make him an easy choice, too.
Let’s hold off on Kent for a minute.
Besides Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Mussina, I think Jack Morris belongs in, too.
Like Blyleven, I wasn’t convinced at first, but sometimes someone’s absence from the Hall of Fame elevates them.
Morris was the go-to guy on three World Series winners (1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, 1992 Blue Jays.) Morris won two World Series games for both the Tigers and Twins, but lost two for the Blue Jays. He did win 21 games for Toronto.
He won 254 games, at least 20 in three seasons and 17 or more five more times. Morris had 175 complete games and 28 shutouts.
Morris wasn’t a strikeout pitcher; he struck out fewer than six batters per nine innings, but allowed less than a home run per nine.
It’s his last year of eligibility, and has climbed in voter’s estimation. Last year, he got 67.7 percent, shy of the 75 percent necessary for induction, and sadly, he’ll probably get lost in the shuffle.
Craig Biggio had over 3,000 hits in 20 seasons for Houston. He was just ahead of Morris in a year where no one was elected. Biggio should be in, too.
I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire or Rafael Palmeiro because of the steroids taint.
Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines and Curt Schilling have strong cases, too, but theirs aren’t as strong as the others. I’d hold off on them, too.
Kent had 377 home runs, and had more than 30 three years, big numbers for a second baseman. One hundred RBIs or more in eight seasons and a .290 batting average. His WAR is below the others mentioned here.
I would have submitted a ballot with Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Mussina, Biggio and Morris.
As for the argument that the 10-player maximum is outmoded, a candidate can stay on the ballot for 15 years as long as they get the five percent minimum, and if someone is good enough to be a Hall of Famer they should eventually be voted in.
There are some players who should have been voted in but weren’t, of course. Lou Whitaker is my example.
He had a 74.8 WAR, higher than Reggie Jackson, Thomas, Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray and Ryne Sandberg. In his only year on the ballot, 2001, Whitaker got just 15 votes, 2.9 percent of the total and disappeared.
I hope that a future Veterans committee elects him, but for now, a 10 player maximum still seems right. If enough people want Raines or Kent, they’ll be voted in eventually. It just doesn’t have to be this year.